of a family do you think we are Matthew? Barnacle or hermit
He took a sip of his hot chocolate and thought for a second.
"Hermit crab," he replied grinning at me and wiping his
"Because we keep on moving around all the time."
"What about you Cameron? What do you think?"
"Hermit crab," he squeaked, agreeing with his brother for
a change and knocking his chocolate milk over in the excitement
"And what do you think about becoming more like a barnacle?"
"Good," said Mattthew, "because we can stick to a rock and
"And we can eat with our feet," added Cameron.
"Well for now just eat your lunch with your fork please
It had been
a fun morning; adoring anemones, chasing crabs, caressing
clams, sorting seashells, sniffing seaweed. Not just idle
beach play but a hands on nature walk in Canada's Pacific
Rim National Park. The Parks Services in America and Canada
take their educational responsibilities seriously, offering
walks and talks to help visitors young and old learn about
and appreciate the treasures within the parks. And after
an hour with a Ranger on Wickaninnish Beach on the wild
west coast of Vancouver Island, we all began to see something
more in a beach than a kids' playground.
as you climb up here," said the Ranger as she led us up
and onto a rocky outcrop, "all sea life here is protected
by law so please don't damage any." Shells cracked as Matthew
and Cameron clambered clumsily over the rocks. "Welcome
to the intertidal zone - a place which is neither land nor
sea, washed by the tide four times a day and home to plants
and animals that are specially adapted to this ever changing
Cameron looking for barnacles in all the wrong places
As we walked
the beach, I began to get flashes of home, of wandering
with the boys on Morecambe beach, and wading through the
muddy shore at Arnside. All our hearts and minds have turned
much more to home as the end of our "Big Trip" approaches.
Not that we're missing it, but as home gets closer the subject
of what it will be like to return to 'normal life' just
keeps cropping up. So we're in a kind of intertidal zone
of our own, neither fully in the flow of our travels nor
yet back at home but certainly homeward bound. The high
tide of our journey is long past, our money has nearly all
ebbed away, our clothes are all washed out and the tide
is on the turn.
crab is an interesting little crab," said the Ranger picking
a tiny shell out of a rock pool and holding it up for all
of us to see. "See those little crab claws, that's the hermit
crab inside the shell. It kinda looks like she's outgrown
this one and needs a new home." She passed the scared little
crab around. "These little crustaceans don't have a strong
crust of their own, so they look after themselves by borrowing
discarded shells and use them for protection while they
scuttle around gathering food. When they outgrow the shell,
they simply find themselves a new home."
We met with
a family on Vancouver Island recently who lived their lives
like hermit crabs. Their house was no shell but still served
in their minds as less of a permanent home and more of a
short term family residence. They saw it as a place to live
and learn for a while before moving on and finding another
or heading off to travel for a while. They had little interest
in steady jobs, good careers, or conventional schooling
for their kids, being more of a mind to find alternative
ways to make enough money to live life to the full, to move
from place to place as their fancy took them, teach their
children about the world through homeschooling and travel,
and live a life of semi-retirement before the dawn of middle
age. We seemed to have a lot in common, especially after
living like hermit crabs ourselves for the past nine months;
scuttling around the world, scavenging for food on a daily
basis, finding shelter where-ever we can. For us home has
been where the family is, whether in a tent, cabin, falé,
motel or hotel, on a bike, boat, plane, train or car, and
we've grown quite accustomed to living like that. Staying
in one place for more than a few days has come to be something
quite unusual and a little unsettling. No wonder we wonder
how it will feel when we finally get back to the village
and house we call home.
Matt contemplates life as a hermit crab
barnacle is something else," said the Ranger. "These little
critters float around in the sea when they're very young,
looking for a good place to settle down. And for these little
fellas settling down means gluing their heads to something
that looks like a good feeding ground. These guys don't
like to search for their eats, they prefer to live in places
where their food will come to them. They glue their heads
to a rock, a whale or passing ship and spend their life
there, grabbing two meals a day from the passing sea. It's
an upside down life, holding on with their heads and gathering
food with their feet, trading mobility for the security
of a good food supply."
at the thousands of tightly packed barnacles encrusting
the rocks around me, washed and fed twice daily by the changing
tide. I imagined them standing on their heads, feet working
overtime to gather food during the ebb and flow of the tide
and headed over to join Matthew who was busy bashing a nearby
rock with a stone. "Look Dad," he said as I approached,
"if you bash barnacles really, really hard, they come unstuck."
He showed me a little barnacle he'd managed to unglue from
the rock. So much for security I thought as I scolded him
quietly and led him away from the crime scene before the
Ranger noticed and summoned Parks Law Enforcement.
Home is nothing like this